Parents, teachers and researchers raise concerns over the use of Wi-Fi in schools

Over the past few days there has been a lot of chatter about the impact that Wi-Fi technology has on the health of people, and in particular children.

One group of distraught parents in Barrie, Ontario (approximately 100KM north of Toronto) approached both the schools their children attend and the Simcoe County school board, which oversees all public schools in the area, demanding that wireless Internet be turned off before their kids head back to school in a few weeks time. The parents said that their children have shown a number of symptoms ranging from headaches and dizziness to more serious symptoms like nausea and racing heart rates, and they think Wi-Fi in their kid’s schools is the culprit.

“These kids are getting sick at school but not at home,” said Rodney Palmer of the Simcoe County Safe School Committee. “I’m not saying it’s because of the Wi-Fi because we don’t know yet, but I’ve pretty much eliminated every other possible source.”

There is a growing body of research that supports Mr. Palmer’s claims. A Trent University professor, that conducts research on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation, has issued two open letters (these letters can be found here) to parents, teachers and school boards stating that based on her findings she is increasingly concerned about Wi-Fi and cell phone use in schools. 

Researchers and lobbyist groups are fighting an uphill battle against Canadians’ desire to stay connected. However, it seems as though some are taking their claims a little more serious than others.

Lakehead University, which has campuses in Thunder Bay, Ont. and Orillia, Ont., implemented a Wi-Fi and cellular antennae policy in late 2009 due to increasing concerns about the effects of wireless technology on staff, students and visitors. The new policy states that:

“There will be no Wi-Fi connectivity provided in those areas of the Univeristy already served by hard wire connectivity until such time as the potential health effects have been scientifically rebutted or there are adequate protective measures that can be taken.” 

Meanwhile, earlier this week Canada’s largest teachers’ union took the opposite stance and rejected a ban on wireless laptops and cell phones in Ontario schools. The proposal was presented by teachers in the Niagara region in Southern Ontario, citing similar research on the effects of electromagnetic rays on young brains and bodies.  

What are your thoughts? Should new and existing schools hold off on Wi-Fi until research bodies can agree on the effects it may have on youth?